Tags: reality

The Red Tree

"Oh comely, I will be with you when you lose your breath."

Jesus, but I fucking hate the cold. Currently, it's sunny, 39˚F, with a windchill of 34˚F, which is, of course, a vast improvement over the last two days. But it's still cold as hell.I feel as if my whole life has become about just living long enough to be once more in a place where winters are no so brutal.

“There's something horrifying about having your memory become part of the public memory.” ~ Mary Karr

“When I think about it, if I had to choose, I'd rather be happy than write.” ~ Jean Rhys

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Because even in winter I have bills to pay.

I'm wearied by the "There would be no joy in my life if I could not write!" folks, especially the ones who've not spent two decades with no other means to make a living. I have never loved writing, which usually surprises, and sometimes angers, people to hear, but it's the truth. Most often, I have loathed writing. But it's what I'm good at. So, it's what I do. There's no romance, no mystery, no pie in the sky. It's my job.

And that's it for now.

Later Taters,
Aunt Beast
The Red Tree

"Not the needle, nor the thread, the lost decree. Saying nothing, that's enough for me."

Yesterday's LJ entry apparently was among yesterday's 25 most popular. LJ told me so. How weird is that?

Outside, it's March. Only 71˚F and cloudy and 81% humidity. Shit weather. And how come no one told me there were new Bloom County strips? Bad humans.

Yesterday was a good writing day. I did 1,287 words and finished the second section of Agents of Dreamland. Now, hesitantly, I set it aside to write pieces for Sirenia Digest 114 and 115 (July and August).

Because people think things, there's something I should explain. On the one hand, the movie options and my doing a screenplay, this is really, really good news. On the other, it doesn't mean that suddenly I'm wealthy. Indeed, it means nothing of the sort. Most option deals are for only a few thousand dollars per book. I was lucky and got a bit more than average. I think it would be crass to reveal the actual sum, so I won't. Anyway, assuming that the films are made, and that my screenplay is indeed used, I'll make enough that I can relax just a little for a few years. But I still won't be wealthy. Hopefully, the buzz generated by the option will help my lit agent get me a better deal on Interstate Love Song, and if the movies are made, my books might sell a little better, and maybe other directors will be interested in my material. Incrementally, this could all, eventually, equal a substantially better income. But that's all a big maybe. I just wanted to say this, because in the months to come I don't want people wondering why I'm still putting out the digest and doing eBay and begging for pennies on the street corners when I could just kick back and swim around in my money like Scrooge McDuck.

I think that counts as a public service announcement.

Datak Tarr, you're a son of a bitch, but you're still a righteous dude.

Aunt Beast
The Red Tree

Back in the Land of Clams and Mafia

Today looks mostly cloudy, from where I sit, the homely little slice of Providence outside my office window. It's 50˚F, though it feels like 44˚F. There's some sun and almost no snow to be seen anywhere. That's something, I suppose.

Yesterday was consumed by a combination of unpacking, email, and attempting to figure out how the fuck to make this cluttered house livable until such time as we get the fuck out of here, also know as August.

Today, I need to begin actual writing-type writing work. I have deadlines for four short stories and a 2,500-word novella, and three of those deadlines are before July 31. Plus, I have to produce at least one new piece a month for Sirenia Digest, which means I'm looking at a minimum of six short stories and a novella between now and July 31. Plus my work on the screenplay. I need two more of me. I believe that I'm going to begin with a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" (1844), which I've promised to an anthology. Then I'll be doing something for Sirenia Digest #111. There's an auspicious number. So, yeah, no more fucking around, Kiernan. Get off your bony old ass.

In his introduction to Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea, S.T. Joshi kindly states that I have nothing left to prove; au contraire, mon bon ami. I have to prove that I can keep this up for the rest of my life.


While we were in Woodstock, Spooky and Hubero went for many walks about the property, skirting the edge of the forest. Hubero came to us leash-and-harness trained. Cats on leashes seem to freak people out, but Hubero is perfectly happy being a cat on a string. He's not perfectly happy being back here with no woods to wander about in, no birds to stalk, no trees to climb (even if only a few feet up), no deer to watch. Here are a few photos from his last couple of walks by the cabin:

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The season finale of The Walking Dead had to be one of the most superbly tense hours of television I've ever experienced. Indeed, the second half of the season was, I think, uniformly brilliant. I was a little disappointed with the episode directed by Jennifer Lynch, as there were a couple of scenes that were pretty much ruined by the camera lingeringly lovingly on gore, essentially turning two deaths into fetish and camp. That may sound like an odd complaint for this series, but there you go. Rarely does the series seem to revel in gore, no matter how gory it gets. The gore is simply a fact of existence, the byproduct of a situation. Gore is merely is merely a sort of weather. Which is one reason I like it.


We're going to be starting eBay up again, and we'll be eBaying our brains out for the next few months. One thing we'll be offering is signed sets of the Quinn novels, Blood Oranges, Red Delicious, and Cherry Bomb. So keep your eyes peeled for those. So to speak.

Aunt Beast
The Red Tree

"Give me back my broken night, my mirrored room, my secret life."

Currently, it's 35˚F. Tonight's low will be 23˚F (windchill 9˚F), with snow flurries. The world is white. It's currently snowing in Providence. Welcome, Spring 2015.

Ten years ago, almost to the day (March 22, 2005), I wrote:

I have to write. I have to write regardless. I does not matter if I've had a bad day. It does not matter if I am depressed or in some other sort of mood not conducive to writing. I still have to write. I does not matter if the weather is crappy or if there's trouble in my family. It does not matter if I'd rather do something else. It does not matter if, in some objective, cosmic sense, I've earned the right to do something else. It does not matter if it's not my fault. It does not matter. I have to write. Nothing else matters, ever. Nothing else matters more. Them's the rules. I knew them when I signed on, and now I'm stuck with them. I have to find a way to write in spite of chaos. That's the only option, because clearly things have no intention of becoming any less chaotic.

And at some point I forgot this, or I simply decided to neglect the truth. But nothing's changed. Nothing at all. I've gotten sloppy, lazy. I've allowed chaos and depression to steer me away from acknowledging and obeying the facts of this existence.

I wrote nothing yesterday. I allowed a morning crisis to serve as an excuse not to work.


Today, with adjusting for inflation, my income is pretty much the same as it was the year I sold my first novel (1997). This is another inconvenient truth of the freelancer's life. There's no cost-of-living increase, except my ability to use my name as a bargaining chip. Which helps a tiny bit. But, all in all, nothing much has changed. My novel advances are about the same. And I was actually paid substantially less per page writing for Dark Horse than when I was working for DC Comics in the 1990s ($75/page vs. $95/page). Keep in mind that, right now, you need about $1.49 for the buying power of a 1996 dollar. Yet, I actually pay $600 more a month rent now.


If I had anything more to say today, I have no fucking idea what it might have been.

Aunt Beast

"...cycling by, through windows of our past lives."

Both The Drowning Girl and my short story "Fake Plastic Trees" have been nominated for the 2013 Locus Award (this makes four nominations and one win for The Drowning Girl).

It seems like a long time since I made an entry here, but I see that it was only Wednesday. A hop, skip, and a jump. Hardly seventy-two hours ago. I'd meant to take two days off. I took four. Well, mostly. There was some spotty work yesterday and the day before. Thursday and Friday. They were uneventful days off, and not even in an especially restful way. Infirmities kept me and Spooky inside, until yesterday. Even yesterday we only made it as far as the other side of town.

Yesterday we went out, to Wayland Square and Angell Street. My goddamn rotten feet are giving me fits again, but I hobbled about, determined to get as much sun as I could. We made it to Paper Nautilus Books and Pow Science and just walked a bit. We stopped in at Acme Video on the way home to get movies for our weekend long Ray Harryhausen film festival. I was very pleased to see the shop had pulled all his films and may a special "R.I.P." display. We began, last night, with 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), to be followed by It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) and The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms (1953). Anyway, yes....wonderful yesterday. After the long, foul fucking winter and this Cold Spring, yesterday felt wonderful. Here in Providence, the temperature climbed almost all the way to 80˚F. Today, it's cloudy, very windy, and almost ten degrees cooler, but still, not so bad. The air yesterday – and today – is filled with cherry blossoms, like whirling clouds of pink snow. Almost everything is green now. Which makes the sky a little less heavy. I don't feel quite so pressed down. There are a few random photo from yesterday below, behind the cut.

And here is Saturday, and I have to get back to work. In theory, I'm doing the first four pages of Chapter Eleven of Alabaster: Boxcar Tales today, and then finishing Chapter Eleven tomorrow. In practice, I'm not actually sure what "happens next" in the story. I guess I'll find out. Also, I have to talk (via email) with Jerad at Centipede Books. We're working out an onlay for front cover (cloth), using an etching by Fritz Hegenbart.

I'm reading The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times by Adrienne Mayor.

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“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.” ~ Stephen Hawking (1995). Lovecraft would have adored that quote.

Now, work.

Conveyer Belt,
Aunt Beast

"Dying's just another way to leave the ones you love."

I don't write about my dreams much anymore. Frankly, after I began..well...the new drugs, back in 2010, things got better. Dreamsickness became almost a phenomenon of the past. But Lamictal can cause vivid dreams, and when I have to increase my dose – as I have to do every now and then – I get vivid dreams. Crazy vivid, like the old days. Dreams that are not dreams, but are, for their duration, simply reality. I am there, and I am not necessarily this me, but I am a me with a history (not this history) – and that me, with that history, is possessed of as much integrity, is as "real," during the dream as my waking thoughts presently, in this moment, tell me anything I see or remember is real. Being awakened from one of these dreams is a jolt. I'm trying not to exaggerate. It feels like falling into freezing water, and like being struck, and my brain is forced, instantly, to detach itself from one reality and accept that it was "false," and immediately assimilate and remember that another reality is THE reality. You know, the one that's real. I spend hours staring at empty space, stumbling when I try to walk, and fighting a mind that needs very much to get back to that other place and those other people. Nothing here seems important.

I find myself asking questions of myself. "Have they noticed I'm gone?" "Was I replaced by another 'me?'" "Was that history rewritten so I was never there, or do they miss me?" "Did they survive?" I go through a few hours of strange mourning, for what I lost on waking, no matter how terrible it might have been. It was a universe, if "only" of my imagination.

A Soviet invasion, or a revolt against Soviet Russia (Think Enemy at the Gates). The early Twentieth Century. A city that might have been in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary. I'm not speaking English, and no one else is, either. But I understand every word. Endless mud, filthy snow, shattered bricks and paving stones, fiery night, smokey days, gunfire, always running. The burnt-out husks of tanks. Barbed wire and road checks. Our clothes are the rags of Soviet uniforms stolen from dead soldiers. Finally, it's discovered that I'm a geologist, and I'm taken from a work crew to look at something that's been unearthed. I'm able to take two people with me. I know one was a woman, but I've forgotten her name. The forgetting is, by the way, part of the pain that comes after waking. It leaves me feeling guilt. Forgetting ones you love and who loved you.

I'm led to the edge of the rubble that was a city, and shown a bank of sediment, and asked what it is. Straightaway, it's obvious that I'm looking at a deposit of glacial loess, probably Pleistocene. I point out fossils from the foot of a perissodactyl, most probably a horse. There are also several dolphin vertebrae weathering from the yellow-orange silt. I'm explaining all this, uncovering the bones, when I'm forced to stop. There's a long ride in the back of a horse-drawn wagon, and at the end of it is a chasm, and a cavern opening into the loess. I'm left with the two people I "saved," and told to investigate. We do, and discover that the cavern leads to a fantastic palace of blood-colored marble, red so red it's almost black. Pillars and fantastic domes, frescos overhead that would put Michelangelo to shame. It all looks vaguely Greek, vaguely Roman, but of no particular period, or of many periods. We see very little, as we have to report what we've seen at once (I'm hastily drawing maps). As soon as we do, we're shuffled back into the wagon, and as we're being carted away, I hear explosions from the direction of the subterranean palace. I stand up, screaming, begging to be taken back, but no one's listening.

And then Spooky wakes me. And...I hit that conscious wall of ice at a hundred miles an hour. This morning I cried out (which always leaves me feeling like a fool).


A lot of writing yesterday, and the first third of a "secret" project finished. Some corrections today, and it goes away to my editor. And then it's Assembly Day for Sirenia Digest #79, which subscribers will have by tonight, I hope. You get a new story, "Quiet Houses," illustrated by Vince Locke, plus Chapter One of Fay Grimmer. So, it's a good issue, yes? And then no more work until after Readercon 23.

I'm going to be crazy busy during the con, by the way, and my schedule is very tight. If I don't have time to stop and talk with you, or if I stop, but then rush off, don't be offended.


Listening to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of my new favorite bands. They are incredible, and you must own their CD, Leaving Eden. They'll be playing a show in Rhode Island, down at Ninigret Park, on September 1st. And, by the way, on that whole subject of the art police, what do those self-appointed Art Police, protecting tender ears and eyes and fragile minds and striving for a landscape of bland, cautious, ultimately noncommittal art make of a band composed entirely of African-American youths whose first album was Genuine Negro Jig, and whose new album, Leaving Eden, includes "Kerr's Negro Jigg"? All that matters, of course, is that the music is beautiful, breathtaking. Fuck the rest. Dog, this music makes me "homesick."

Oh, and by the way, if you're wondering when an artist's intent ceased to matter in art (many have asked me that question over the past two days), look to Academia, and to currently fashionable literary criticism, especially reader-response criticism*. Which teaches the work only exists once it has been perceived, and that the reader's interpretations are what matter. The intent of the author, anything about the author, is entirely irrelevant. This is a good place to start (though other schools of lit and art crit have also done damage), and to the kids who were fed it in college, and the kids who didn't go to college themselves, but still know it's what all the Cool, In-Crowd Folks are espousing. It's not what an author said and meant, it's only how we make all those fragile unique snowflakes feel. I say we go on strike, and let them make their own fucking art.

Neither Here Nor There,
Aunt Beast

* By the way, in my disdain for reader-response criticism I am most emphatically not being anti-intellectual. There are schools of literary criticism I find sane and reasonable. This just isn't one of them. Russian Formalism (which does address reader response, but in the context of authorial intent) and New Criticism**, for example. But reader-response criticism is, in my opinion, quite bizarre and destructive. It's the reader's equivalent of a pre-Galiean universe in which the cosmos revolves around the earth. The readers who preach this nonsense are, of course, the mental and cultural equivalent of the 17th-Century Church.

** Both have, regrettably, fallen out of favor, despite their general robustness as theories.

As We Know It

So, imagine that the entire human population has been decimated by a pandemic. The world's cities have been reduced to rubble and ash. Virtually no survivors remain. But someone makes a "reality TV series" about it. And our survivors all just happen to be amazingly gifted, mostly college-educated professionals, with skills uniquely suited to making it in this post-apopcalyptic wasteland. Well, as long as they have all those other skilled folks on hand. Because, face it. What use is it knowing how to build a solar array to power your blow drier if you don't know how to turn toxic sludge from the LA River into drinking water? Anyway, this is the formula for what Spooky and I found ourselves streaming last night, The Colony. Oh, yeah, it's bad. It's whatever's worse than bad.

Here we are. At the end of the world. In Los Angeles. And there are those roving gangs of bikers from The Road Warrior, only the producers forbid them to hurt any of the "participants," which is a good thing, since California seems to have banned all firearms immediately before the plague hit. Now, want reality? Give me a carpenter, a hooker, a few day laborers, maybe one professional (let's say a CPA), a junky, an orphan, and someone with Alzheimer's, and that would begin to simulate the situation that might arise after The End. Oh, and give them guns and knives and pointy sticks. And screw the bikers. Try roving bands of starving feral (and probably frequently rabid) dogs and coyotes.

I present this oddly watchable train wreck with an F+.


Yesterday was a very good day. I wrote 1,403 words and finished "Apostate." I also retitled it "The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings," a vast improvement. Look for Sirenia Digest #74 on Friday.

Meanwhile, I received very good news about closing the deal on Blood Oranges and its two sequels, and I can probably make the official announcement next week (or sooner).

And I'm going to have very cool news regarding both The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl, but I can't yet say what it is...except no, we're not talking film. But very, very cool news. It's gonna make a lot of my readers happy.

Oh! And Spooky ordered us a Cookiethulu T-shirt! (It was on sale yesterday). "Coooooookie! Iä! Iä!"

As for today, I'm going to celebrate yesterday going so well by taking a day off. I'll answer some email, but then I'm outta here, kittens. Which is not to say you shouldn't comment. You should. Because, you know, I will be back.

Looking Up,
Aunt Beast

"And my body was loose, and I was set alight."

1. Dreams give us another reality, realities that are, more often than not, terrible or horrific or surreal. But, always, those dream realities are brilliant. The are radiant, even if they radiate darkness and seethe with violence and fear. Then we awake, and we're back here again. Here, where the world is banal, and all is shit, and there is nothing. (A thought more perfectly realized in the instant of its conception, but, like a dream, it began fading as I tried to write it down.)

2. I have been sitting here contemplating measuring the speed of time as a physical constant. If not in this worldline, then in some other. Light's easy, that c we take for granted, a simple 299,792,458 m/second, but what if time moves? How does one state the speed of time without resorting to circular reasoning?

3. Yesterday, I did only one new page on Alabaster, Page Fifteen, because I realized that I'd set the plot on the wrong pivot (so to speak – pivot, fulcrum, whatever), and the first half #3 was the last chance I'd have to set it straight in the first series, and if I didn't set it right then the wrongness would echo down through many issues to come. Writing comics, plot is one of those things that are first and foremost. When I'm writing prose, I almost always let plot worry about itself. Usually, it accretes naturally out of characterization and mood and theme, those things I prefer to write. Actually writing plot is, I find, agonizing. Like picking buckshot out of your own flesh, then putting it back in another way round, but finding that configuration just as "wrong," and starting over and over and over. Life has characters and moods and maybe even themes run through it, but it has no plot. Which is why a plan is only a list of things that never happen. Like my proposals and synopses for unwritten stories. Anyway, I'll still hit my deadline on #3.

4. Apologies for not posting the "Question @ Hand" last night. Tonight, for sure. I'm dithering.

5. Played more of SW:toR last night (though only about a third as on Saturday), and, as promised, I was going to attempt to explain my thoughts on how it might be that video games make lousy movies, but Star Wars: The Old Republic is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back (1980). But, slothman has saved me the trouble:

When you get 3000 years away from the main setting, you can ignore 95% of the issues of continuity with the stories from the films and the vast majority of Expanded Universe fiction. That frees up the creators to tell entirely new stories, using the familiar ingredients of lightsabers and the Force and a hundred sentient species. In my opinion, the best Star Wars work takes place at least 1000 years before the films (the Knights of the Old Republic games and comics), and the second best over 100 years after (the Star Wars: Legacy comics).

Which is essentially what I was going to say.

I'm going to play again tonight, then summarize my thoughts on the beta tommorow. But I am still loving it mightily, but also allowing myself to see the blemishes. The one that bothers me the most (she jumps the gun!) is that SW:toR takes us three-thousand years into the past, roughly three-thousand years before A New Hope, and...all the technology is essentially the same. The starships, the shuttles, the weaponry, the speeder bikes, the droids, and so on. Now, this would be akin to watching technology on earth having failed to evolve significantly since, say, the Third Intermediate Period of Ancient Egypt (roughly 1060-664 BC), or...well..pick another culture – China, Persia, the Mesoamericans, etc. – they all work in this analogy. Maybe, if I were a bigger Star Wars geek I'd know some bit of lore to explain the reason for this technological stagnation spanning millennia. As it is, I find the phenomenon baffling. Were the creators too lazy to fashion a genuine history for this galaxy long, long ago and far, far away? Do they fear fan backlash? It can't be that. Not after LucasArts unleashed Jar Jar fucking Binks on an unsuspecting world. Sure, later we get death stars and light sabers fall out of favour and whatnot, but nothing really changes in the course of three-thousand years.

6. I just got the news that Ken Russell has died. Truthfully, I hated almost all of his films, with the only notable exception of Whore (1991). But still...damn. As Russell said, "“Reality is a dirty word for me, I know it isn’t for most people, but I am not interested. There’s too much of it about.”

7. Part of last night was spent catching up on "television" (id est, streaming via Hulu). Very good episodes of both Fringe and American Horror Story. And I read chapters Five and Six of Barnum Brown: The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus rex before sleep, which didn't come until about four ayem. I was in bed at two, but my mind (despite a literal handful of pills) had other plans.

Here For Now,
Aunt Beast

In Which the Author Discusses the "M" Word

Only slightly late, Sirenia Digest #46 just went out to subscribers. My great thanks to Vince, Spooky, and Gordon. I do hope that everyone enjoys "Charcloth, Firesteel, and Flint" and "Shipwrecks Above." If you are a subscriber, #46 should be in your in-box. If you're not a subscriber, that's easy to fix.

Not much to say about yesterday, as it was mostly spent getting #46 together. Lots of work, just not very exciting. I wrote the prolegomena, proofed and corrected both stories, laid the issue out, etc. Oh, that reminds me. We're trying a slightly different format this month, to allow vertically oriented images to appear on the cover page. Hope you like it.


Near as I can tell, there are actually people who think that artists (writers, musicians, painters, etc.) somehow manage to subsist without relying on money. Yes, money. Mammon, that "dirty" word no one seems to want to think about in connection with art. Or, they only want to think about it on some indirect, subconscious level. Recently, Amanda Palmer has drawn a lot of flack for her very aggressive, somewhat guerilla approach to making ends meet. Here's an excerpt from a recent blog entry, which she titled, "Why I Am Not Afraid To Take Your Money":

Listen. Artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art. Artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye. Artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks. Please welcome them. Please help them. Please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money. Dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely noticed that artists ALL over the place are reaching out directly to their fans for money. How you do it is a different matter. Maybe I should be more tasteful. Maybe I should not stop my concerts and auction off art. I do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot. BUT…I’d rather get the system right gradually and learn from the mistakes and break new ground (with the help of an incredibly responsive and positive fanbase) for other artists who I assume are going to cautiously follow in our footsteps. We are creating the protocol, people, right here and now. I don’t care if we fuck up. I care THAT we’re doing it.


Now, to bring the whole matter a little closer to home, that is closer to the issue of literature and publishing (as Amanda is a musician and performance artist), here's a second excerpt from "The Reality of a Times Bestseller" by Lynn Viehl (I may not care for what she writes, but that does not invalidate her points):

Here is the first royalty statement for Twilight Fall, on which I’ve only blanked out Penguin Group’s address. Everything else is exactly as I’ve listed it. To give you a condensed version of what all those figures mean, for the sale period of July through November 30, 2008. my publisher reports sales of 64,925 books, for which my royalties were $40,484.00. I didn’t get credit for all those sales, as 21,140 book credits were held back as a reserve against possible future returns, for which they subtracted $13,512.69 (these are not lost sales; I’m simply not given credit for them until the publisher decides to release them, which takes anywhere from one to three years.)

My net earnings on this statement was $27,721.31, which was deducted from my advance. My actual earnings from this statement was $0.

My advance for
Twilight Fall was $50,000.00, a third of which I did not get paid until the book physically hit the shelf — this is now a common practice by publishers, to withhold a portion of the advance until date of publication. Of that $50K, my agent received $7,500.00 as her 15% (which she earns, believe me) the government received roughly $15,000.00, and $1594.27 went to cover my expenses (office supplies, blog giveaways, shipping, promotion, etc.) After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t.

This is pretty close to my own experience with my books from Penguin (though my advances are significantly less hefty, and I fall into that not-making-a-profit category). And the reason I'm posting this, getting into all this unsightly money talk, is because it is becoming evident to me, largely watching some of the negative reaction to Amanda's efforts, that an awful lot of those who partake of an artist's work have very little, if any, idea regarding the realities of our financial situations. They are bleak. Even when lots and lots and lots of people read or listen or whatever, they're usually still bleak, those situations. And I'm not even getting into problems like health and life insurance, self-employment tax, and so forth.

A point that Viehl does not address, but which I shall, pertains to royalties. In all my thirteen years of writing books for Penguin, I have received exactly one royalty check. One. And it wasn't for very much. I hear from many readers who want to know how they should purchase books in order to maximize my cut from each copy. And I have to tell them, again and again, it doesn't matter, because, in truth, I get 0% of each copy sold. Sure, in theory those sales go to work off the "debt" of my advances, and if those "debts" ever are worked off, I might see tiny, little, baby checks. But it won't ever be worked off, and I know that. This means, my advances are, essentially, all I ever get from my novel sales to Penguin. So, it doesn't matter how you buy the book, hard copy or electronic, online or brick-and-mortar shop, it's all the same. Also, keep in mind, when Penguin gives me that advance, it includes electronic rights, audio, and British rights. I do not own those, for any of the novels.

And it can get even worse. When I did the Beowulf novelization for Harper in 2007, it was, essentially, "work for hire" (as was all my work for DC/Vertigo, by the way). That is, I got the advance, with no hope of ever seeing any sort of royalties. And the rights will never revert back to me if the book goes out of print (as they may someday with Penguin). But the worst part of the Beowulf deal was the fact that I was forced to include all foreign-language translation rights in the package they got for their advance money. Now, by forced I do not mean someone drove from NYC to Atlanta and held a fucking gun to my head. I mean that, after I'd written the book, my agent was told this, and we were given a "take it or leave it" option. Give up translation rights or all those months of work were wasted and I'd get zip. Beowulf was, of course, translated into about a dozen languages, selling well overseas, but I saw not one penny from any of those deals. Harper was nice enough to send me complimentary copies of the foreign editions.

Personally, I spent many, many years resisting a rebellion against "business as usual." I'd grown up with the Old Way, pre-internet, and was willing to give it a shot. But. By late 2004, the Old Way had left me all but bankrupt, and I found it necessary to join those who are trying to reinvent the wheel. I started Sirenia Digest, and thanks to the amazingly loyal readership that the digest has found, I keep my head just above water, most of the time.

I'm not exactly sure how to wrap this up. Inevitably, I have left many questions unanswered, and opened the door to very many questions that have not even occurred to me. Or that have only just occurred to me, such as, "Is it different working with Subterranean Press?" Quick answer, yes, and I do much better with subpress, but I think that's also part of reinventing the wheel. Anyway, that's another subject, for another time.

Mostly, I am appalled at the people ragging on Amanda for trying to make a living via inventive, new marketing strategies. The worst of these detractors are just trolls, attracted by the brouhaha. Some are simply ignorant of the facts. Some are laboring under outdated, romantic notions that no longer work (if they ever did). And I felt I should say something.